Mary and Max (2009) Script

Mary Dinkle's eyes were the colour of muddy puddles.

Her birthmark, the colour of poo.

(Dogs bark)

It was Saturday afternoon and she was bored.

Mary wished she had a friend to play piggybacks with.

Mary's mood ring, which she'd found in a cereal box, was grey which, according to the chart, meant she was either pensive, unconsciously ambitious or hungry.

Her only friends were 'The Noblets' from her favourite cartoon.

They weren't the real ones you bought in the shops but fake ones she had to make herself from shells, gumnuts, pompoms and the chicken bones salvaged from Friday night's takeaway.

She had to make all her own toys, and her favourites were Shrinkies potato chip packets that she had shrunk in the oven.

Mary's father, Noel Norman Dinkle, worked in a factory, attaching the strings to tea bags.

At show and tell, she told the class he could get as many free tea bags as he wanted.

Her favourite tea bag was Earl Grey.

She loved saying "Earl Grey" and would like one day to marry someone called Earl Grey.

They would live in a castle in Scotland, have 9 babies, 2 ducks...

..and a dog called Kevin.

Noel's hobby was to sit in his shed and drink Baileys lrish Cream and stuff birds he'd found on the side of the freeway.

Mary wished he'd spend more time with her and less with his dead friends.

She also wished she had some brothers and sisters.

Her mother had told her she was "an accident".

How could someone be an accident?

Grandpoppy Ralph had told her that babies were deliberate and found by dads at the bottom of their beer.

Grandpoppy Ralph had smelt like pickled onions and had been a member of the Frankston lce Breakers for 51 years.

Aaagh! Aaaaaghhh!

They swam in winter to feel alive.

Grandpoppy Ralph had said it made his nipples erect.

He had died the year before, aged 74, and his best mate, Ken, had recited a poem in his honour.

Born in a barn in the hills of Boronia, Ralph lived a long life, then died of pneumonia.

Mary missed him and often wondered why he had drunk ammonia.

A lot of things puzzled Mary especially her mother, Vera Lorraine Dinkle.

To Mary, Vera always seemed wobbly.

A pretty vicious ball. And he's out!

Vera liked listening to the cricket while baking and her main ingredient was always sherry.

3/44. And Thompson 2/15...

She told Mary it was a type of tea for grown-ups that needed constant testing.

Just out of the reach of the lead. 6/96 England.

Mary thought her mother tested the sherry...way too much.

Mary also couldn't understand why Vera was always "borrowing".

Yesterday, she borrowed some fish fingers from Aisle 6.

She told Mary she put things up her dress to save on plastic bags.

Vera was indeed a complicated soul.

Oooh!

Mary stopped daydreaming and went and fetched her pet rooster from the rain.

Her father had found the rooster on the side of the freeway after it had fallen off the back of a slaughter truck.

She named him Ethel.

It was time to watch "The Noblets". She adored "The Noblets" because everyone was brown, lived in a teapot and had oodles of friends.

There was nothing nicer, Mary thought to herself, than the smell of a wet rooster...

..the sound of rain on the roof and the taste of sweetened condensed milk straight from the can while watching your favourite cartoon.


Meanwhile, a man called Max Horowitz also watched "The Noblets".

Max's small television had picture but no sound.

His big television, sound but no picture.

He was 44 and liked "The Noblets" as they lived in a delineated and articulated social structure with constant adherent conformity and also because they had oodles of friends.

Max had trouble sleeping and had spent the night watching television and catching fish food.

He noted to himself it was the sixth fly he'd caught this evening.

He wondered if he should go to bed and count sheep or have one more chocolate hotdog.

He thought he'd try both but it didn't work.

It had been 6 hours and 12 minutes since Henry Vlll had passed away.

And Henry's death had thrown Max's life into disarray.

It had become asymmetrical and the sooner he got a new fish, the better.

Tomorrow he would go to the pet store and get another Henry Henry lX.

Next.

It was shopping day and Mary sat patiently while her mother "borrowed" some envelopes.

To fill in time, she scanned the room and counted how many things were brown.

There was sticky tape, rubber bands and a phone book with a picture of a lady standing in a brown lake with her hand on fire.

People had weird names in America, Mary Daisy Dinkle thought to herself.

Funny-sounding people called Rockefeller and Finkelstein.

She wondered what they looked like, how old they were and if they were married, wore glasses, or had found babies in their beer.

Maybe in the USA they found babies elsewhere.

Hmm... They drank a lot of cola.

Maybe they found them in cans.

But, no, they wouldn't fit through the hole.

Mary had an idea.

She would write to one of the Americans and ask where babies came from.

She chose a Mr M Horowitz.

Aarrgh, Mrs Dinkle!

Come back here, Vera Dinkle! You come back here!

Aaarghhhh!

Dear Mr M Horowitz, my name is Mary Daisy Dinkle and I am 8 years old, 3 months and 9 days.

My favourite colour is brown and my favourite food is sweetened condensed milk followed closely by chocolate.

I have a rooster called Ethel that looks like this.

He doesn't lay eggs but will one day.

My mother likes smoking, cricket and sherry and my father likes playing in his shed with dead birds.

Where do babies come from in America?

Do they come from cola cans?

In Australia they are found in beer glasses.

Here is a drawing of me.

I can't draw ears proper but I'm good at teeth.

It would be great if you could write back and be my friend.

Yours "sincerealy", Mary Daisy Dinkle.

PS. I hope you like the chocolate bar I'm also sending.

It's called a Cherry Ripe.

Goodbye, letter. Don't forget to write.


Max hated Thursdays the day of his weekly Overeaters Anonymous meeting.

And tonight he'd felt especially unsettled because he'd eaten two chocolate hotdogs on his way there.

OK, class...

Eating chocolate was breaking the rules.

He'd found the night even more unbearable because of Marjorie Butterworth's strange glances.

Class dismissed.

Max had trouble understanding non-verbal signals.

Flirting was as foreign to him as jogging.

Max found most people very confusing.

But little did Max realise his night was about to become even more confusing and cryptic.

Hmm.

He read Mary's letter four times and then did what he normally did whenever confronted with something new and stressful.

Max's fragile existence had once again become unsettled.

And after staring out of the window for 18 hours he finally made a decision.


Dear Mary Daisy Dinkle, thank you for the letter, which I opened and read at 9.1 7pm after my Overeaters Anonymous class.

I am trying to lose weight because my psychiatrist, Dr Bernard Hazelhof, says a healthy body equals a healthy mind.

Ooooh!

He says my mind is not that healthy.

Your drawing is an interesting visual portrayal of yourself.

I have never met anyone from Australia.

Firstly, I will answer your question.

Unfortunately, in America, babies are not found in cola cans.

I asked my mother when I was four and she said they came from eggs laid by rabbis.

If you aren't Jewish, they're laid by Catholic nuns.

If you're an atheist, they're laid by dirty, lonely prostitutes.

So this is where babies come from in America.

I share my home with a fish, some snails, whom I have named after famous scientists...

..a parakeet called Mr Biscuit and, finally, a cat called Hal.

"Hal" is an abbreviation for halitosis, from which he suffers.

He followed me home after a gang of children shot his eye out with a beebee gun.

Do you have a pet kangaroo?

When I was born, my father left my mother and me on a kibbutz.

She shot herself with my uncle's gun when I was six.

Do you like chocolate hotdogs?

I invented the recipe for them and can send it to you.

When I was young, I invented an invisible friend called Mr Ravioli.

My psychiatrist says I don't need him anymore so he just sits in the corner and reads.

Last week I picked up 128 cigarette butts.

People are always littering in New York.

I do not understand why people break laws.

Butts are bad because they wash out to sea and fish smoke them and become nicotine dependent.

I am just joking because, of course, it is impossible for a cigarette to remain lit underwater.

Also, fish do not have pockets to keep cigarette lighters in.

I am 44 years old and have 8 tracksuits the same colour and size.

I weigh 352 lb...

Ooooh!

..and am as tall as a 6-foot tree.

Welcome to the New York Lottery!

I enjoy entering the lottery and have chosen the same numbers for 9 years.

Those numbers are 3... 1.

5... 4.

6... 25.

9... 2.

11... (7.

And 12. 8.

Are you a winner?

Or a loser?

I have had many different jobs during my life.

My first job was collecting subway tokens in the subway.

My second job was at Yiddel's Gourmet Kosher Supplies where I worked at the machine that made pre-packaged noodle kugels.

I was born Jewish and used to believe in God but I've since read many books that have proven God is just a figment of my imagination.

People like to believe in God because it answers complicated questions Iike where did the universe come from, do worms go to heaven... do worms go to heaven...

..and why do old ladies have blue hair?

Even though I'm an atheist, I still wear my yarmulke as it keeps my brain warm.

My third job was for a company that printed logos on novelty items.

I worked at the frisbee printing machine.

A frisbee is a circular plastic disc that people throw at each other.

It is like a boomerang but it does not come back.

My fourth job was when I was called up for jury duty.

I didn't get paid much but got free cookies and coffee.

Jurors are outstanding members of the community who haven't murdered anybody.

I made it to the short list for a trial where a man killed all his friends at his own surprise birthday party.

Unfortunately, I didn't get selected because they found out I'd been a mental patient at one point.

Have you ever been hang gliding?

My fifth job was as a garbage collector.

I got to clean up after litterbugs and didn't have to talk to anybody.

Sometimes I used to pretend I was an intergalactical robot.

This is 911. Your call has been placed in a queue.

One time the police took me in for questioning but let me go when they decided I wasn't a threat to anybody except myself.

The sixth job I had was for the United States Army in the stationery supply department.

Because I am good with numbers I had to work out how many ballpoint pens the Army needed.

One day they did a security check and asked whether I was a member of any radical groups.

I told them I was a member of the New York Science Fiction Fan Club.

They said this didn't count but dismissed me anyway.

Fortunately, I did not remember to tell them I was once a communist.

Have you ever been a communist?

Have you ever been attacked by a crow or similar large bird?

When I was 9, a crow attacked me on my way to school.

I had to have three stitches and in spring I now wear a helmet with eyes I have painted on.

People laugh at me when I wear my helmet.

I'm not sure why.

People often confuse me but I try not to let them worry me.

New York is a very busy and noisy place.

I would prefer to live somewhere much quieter Iike the moon.

I don't like crowds, bright lights, sudden noises or strong smells.

New York has all these especially the smells.

I often wear nose and ear plugs when I go outside.

It helps keep me calm.

I find humans interesting but I have trouble understanding them.

I think, however, I will understand and trust you.

You appear very happy and I think you would smell like a shrimp as I know Australia has a lot of shrimps.

Can you speed-read?

I have taught myself to read two pages at once one eyeball per page.

I have to go now even though I have not told you about my 7th job, in a condom factory.

Write back soon.

Your American friend, Max Jerry Horowitz.

PS. Please find enclosed a photo from one of those booths.

PPS. Thank you for the Cherry Ripe and I am glad you like chocolate as much as I do.

I have never eaten sweetened condensed milk but I will try some this week.

PPPS. I have never used a condom.

Gey gezunterheyt.

Max hoped Mary would write again.

He'd always wanted a friend.

A friend that wasn't invisible, a pet or rubber figurine.

He counted the stars and wondered how many days, hours, minutes it would take his letter to reach Australia.

Vera was not impressed...

Aaaarrgh!

..not impressed at all.

This nutcase would not be her daughter's penfriend, she thought.

There was enough ugliness in the world.

Mary would be home from school in an hour enough time for another cup of tea and a bit of cricket to soothe the nerves and dissolve the memory of Max's letter from her pickled mind.

Yeah, he's out. Unbelievable. 14. England 7/150.


Stop! Wait!

Hey, fellas, you got room for one more bag?

Sure, Mrs Dinkle. Hop in!

Good one, Kevin!

Aaaarghhh!

Come on, Vera. We've got some other bags to pick up!

Ooh. Hmm.

Mary, is that all the rubbish?

Yep!

See ya, Toots!

Sweet baby Jesus.

Ooooah!

Even though Max's letter smelt like fish heads and orange peel, Mary drank his words like a bowl of alphabet soup and hadn't been this excited since Grandpoppy Ralph had found a coin up her nose.

She wrote back immediately on some butchers' paper she'd stolen from some chops.

Dear Max, I'm so excited you've wroted back.

I don't think my parents like you so from now on send stuff to my neighbour Len Hislop at 26 Lamington Drive, Mt Waverley.

He's old with no legs.

They got chew"d"ed off in World War ll when some Japanese peoples kept him in a cage above piranhas.

Piranhas are goldfish that have teeth.

He's scared of outside, which is a disease called homophobia.

He's started giving me 50 cents a week to get his mail.

I'm saving to buy a castle in Scotland and marry a man called Earl Grey.

Do you get "The Noblets" in America?

Well, my favourite Noblet is Vanity Noblet.

He wants to be everyone's friend, even the boys'!

In your letter, you said you had no friends.

Well, neither do l.

A-ha!

Yesterday at school, Bernie Clifford weed on my spam sandwich and called me "poo face" 'cos of my birthmark.

I wish I could peel it off like a bandaid.

He also laughed 'cos I had no buttons.

Ethel pecked them off and Mum couldn't thread a needle 'cos she'd been testing the sherry so she used pegs instead.

When I got home, I climbed into my secret place till dinner time.

The other kids also laugh at my haircut.

Dad has to cut my hair because mum says real hairdressers sell your hair to Chinamen who stuff mattresses.

My teacher, Mrs Pendergast, says I should smile more.

I told my mum and so she drawed a big smile on me.

I don't think Mrs Pendergast likes me anymore.

I better go now. My tears are smudgling my words.

Your friend in Australia, Mary Daisy Dinkle.

PS. Have you ever been teased? Can you help me?

PSS. I've never been hang gliding before or been a "commune-ist" but would love a frisbee and your recipe for chocolate hotdogs.

PSSS. I'm sending you some Australian chocolate, a pompom I made and a cake called a lamington, which I was meant to eat for lunch.


Have you ever been teased?

Ooooooooooaaaahhhh!

Mary's letter triggered memories Max had buried deep down in his shoes.

We've got him cornered now. Hey, Jew-boy, you're gonna pay...

Take this, Jew-boy, Jew-boy, Jew-boy.

And as usual, he coped in the only way he knew.

And 36 chocolate hotdogs later...

..and after only two hours sleep, Max's meltdown faded away and an idea popped into his brain.

Dear Mary Daisy Dinkle, thank you for your letter, chocolate bar, lamington and pompom.

The chocolate got crushed, so I blended the bits with milk and icecream and now I am drinking it right now.

After much thought, I think I have a solution to your teasing.

Tell Bernie Clifford your birthmark is made of chocolate,

which means when you get to heaven you will be in charge of all the chocolate.

This of course is a lie I do not like lies but in this case I think it will be of benefit.

I wish I could be in charge of all the chocolate but, of course, I cannot because of my atheism.

My neighbour lvy is also an atheist.

She doesn't talk much but makes me very good soup on Sunday nights.

She is partly blind and sometimes I find her hair in my soup. Eeugh!

I do not tell her as Dr Bernard Hazelhof says this would be impolite.

Here is a list of what I eat on the other nights.

Mondays - Glicks Potato Knish, Tuesdays - Yiddels Noodle Kugel, Wednesdays - Captain Salty's Fishstix, Thursdays - Yentls Cheezy Blintz and Fridays - chicken nuggets.

On Saturday nights I create my own recipes.

Last week I invented canned spaghetti hamburgers.

Recipes are like mathematical equations.

Dr Bernard Hazelhof told me you should never weigh more than your refrigerator and to never eat anything bigger than your head.

I once ate a watermelon bigger than my head but not all at once.

Do you have any weight loss suggestions?

My Overeaters Anonymous meetings don't seem to be working and just make me tense.

It would be good if there was a "Fat Fairy".

She would be a bit like the Tooth Fairy but would suck out your fat.

Ivy says she is only a "little bit" blind but I think she is very blind.

She should get a cane like other vision-impaired people.

She could make the end pointy and collect rubbish at the same time.

I think I will write a letter to the Mayor and suggest this.

He will be very impressed.

Ivy says she doesn't need a cane because she has a good sense of smell.

She says she could find me with her eyes stapled shut.

She says I smell like liquorice and old books.

I think she smells like cough medicine and urine.

I have never told her this as Dr Bernard Hazelhof said this would also be impolite.

People often think I am tactless and rude.

I cannot understand how being honest can be...improper.

Maybe this is why I don't have any friends of course except for you.

A real friend has been one of my three goals in life.

The other two are to own every Noblet and a lifetime supply of chocolate.

Dr Bernard Hazelhof says it is good to have goals but not stupid ones like mine.

I have now run out of things to tell you.

Please, write soon.

Your friend in America, Max Jerry Horowitz.

PS. Do not worry about not smiling.

My mouth hardly ever smiles but it does not mean I am not smiling inside my brain.

PPS. Please find enclosed a frisbee, some Chocolate Pop Rocks, which you should eat with cola, and an illustration of a turtle from one of my National Geographics.

PPPS. Did you know that turtles can breathe through their anuses?

Dear Max, when I told Bernie Clifford I'll be in charge of all the chocolate in heaven and he wouldn't get any, he cried.

I also hide'd some dog's poo in his bit of the sandpit.

Your advice was great and I've got a job delivering pamphlets so I can save to come and see you.

I am sad to hear you are fat.

Mum says I am fat too and I'm growing up to be a heifer, which I think is a type of cow.

Maybe you should only eat things beginning with the letter of each day.

On Mondays you could only eat milkshakes, marshmallows and...mustard.

Oooh!

For my birthday, my Mum baked a cake and Dad gave me a camera.

I hope you like the photos I sent.

The first one is of Ethel, who ate some tinsel.

The next one is one of myself after I ate the Chocolate Pop Rocks with the cola, like you said.

Next is Len.

He's still trying hard not to be afraid of outside and conquer his homophobia.

The next one is of dad in his shed, and then one of the times I covered mum while she was asleep in her stickers that help her stop smoking.

Next, when I got my slinky caught in my hair.

Then one of the times Sonny digged up his wife, Cher.

And, finally, a photo of my other neighbour Damian Popodopolous.

He's a Greek and smells like lemon dishwashing liquid and his skin is smooth, like the back of a spoon.

Mum says he's a wog and has a stutter and can't even say his own surname.

She says you have to hit him on the back of the head to get his words out.

P-P-P-P...Popodopolous.

I wish he was my boyfriend and we can be in love and do sexing like Katherine Ramsay told me behind the bike shed.

She said it's when two people go "nuddy" and rub on each other to make babies.

I told her she's a liar and would go to hell and burn like toast

'cos babies really come from beer glasses and eggs laid by rabbits and nuns and "prosti-tubes".

She said ladies get knocked up and bake babies in their stomachs for 2 years till they spurt out their "vag-eye-ners" with blood and tinned spaghetti.

Have you got a girlfriend, Max, or some wives?

Have you done sexing?

Valentine's Day is soon and I want to give Damian a present so he can love me.

Can you explain love and how I can be "lover'd"?

Once again, Mary's letter had triggered an anxiety attack.

Max knew nothing about love.

It was as foreign to him as scuba diving and he'd had an appalling history of getting it all wrong.

One Valentine's Day he'd given Zelda Glutnik a gift he was sure was appropriate.

The only companion that had ever warmed Max's bed was his hot water bottle.

Romance and love was a mysterious language he'd given up on.

If only Mary had asked how a toaster works or asked for an explanation of the Chaos theory.

If only there was a mathematical equation for love.

He kept eating and thinking.

But love was not like Max's Rubik's Cube. It could not be solved.

No matter how he analysed it, the results were negative.

Beat it, creep!

He felt love but couldn't articulate it.

Its logic was as foreign to him as... as a salad sandwich.

The stars made more sense.

12, have you responded to the call? Over.

The anxiety and stress were too much.

The inscrutability of love finally won, and Max's brain gave in.

He was diagnosed with severe depression and obesity and spent the next 8 months institutionalised and bedridden.

They marinated him in a cocktail of drugs and performed the usual "therapeutic" procedures.

Meanwhile, Mary wondered and waited.

Maybe Max's typewriter had run out of ink.

Maybe America had run out of ink.

Maybe his pets had eaten him.

Maybe it was her.

Was she too demanding, too boring, too...ugly?

Filled with anger, confusion and self-loathing, Mary tried to erase the memory of her friend forever.


Max had recovered.

And life was balanced, safe and symmetrical once again.

But Mary still lingered in his mind.

Half of him wanted to write to her immediately.

The other half didn't want to end up a mental patient again.

At least there was always Mr Ravioli to be friends with.

He was a much safer option.

He wondered what Mary was doing right now.

But she was far from content and struggled on by herself, saving her money for a rainy day.

Life went on as usual for Max and even though he opted for order and stability, misfortune was never far away.


Luckily, his manslaughter charges were dismissed because he was labelled mentally deficient and unlikely to have a motive for killing a mime artist...

Oop.

..unlike most people.

From then on, Max cooled himself differently and things went back to normal until after his 48th birthday, when his numbers finally came up.

Welcome to the New York Lottery and these are tonight's winning numbers

3, 5, 6, 9, 11 and 12!


Max was sensible with his sudden wealth and had bought a lifetime supply of chocolate and the complete Noblet collection.

Two of his life goals had come true.

But he still had a lot of money so decided to give it to lvy...

..who was also very sensible...


..until her own numbers came up.

Ivy willed everything to the local cat shelter, whose owner relocated her kind donation to his bank account, his wife's new breasts, a Ferrari and enough fuel to get to Mexico.

Despite achieving all his life's goals, Max still felt incomplete.

Mr Ravioli just wasn't cutting the mustard anymore and seemed more interested in his self-help books.

Mary had given Max a taste of real friendship and there was just no comparison.

She missed him too but no longer saved to see him.

She now saved for a different reason.

One day Mr Ravioli got up, left and never came back.

Max sought Dr Hazelhof's advice.

He told Max that true friendship is seen through the heart, not through the eyes, and that it was time he wrote to Mary to reveal his true self, warts and all.

Max understood.

Dear Mary Daisy Dinkle, there is something I have to tell you which will explain why I have not written.

Each time I received one of your letters, I had a severe anxiety attack.

This is because recently, while I was in a mental institution, they diagnosed that I have a new thing called Asperger's syndrome, which is a neurobiological, pervasive, developmental disability.

I prefer "Aspie" for short.

I will now list some of the traits of an Aspie.

No.1 - I find the world very confusing and chaotic because my mind is very literal and logical.

2 - I have trouble understanding the expressions on people's faces.

When I was younger, I made a book to help me when I was confused.

I still have trouble with some people.

Ivy was hard to understand because of her wrinkles and because her eyebrows weren't real.

3 - I have bad handwriting, am hypersensitive...

..clumsy and can get very concerned.

4 - I like solving problems. Ivy said this is a good thing.

And finally No.5 - I have trouble expressing my emotions.

Dr Bernard Hazelhof says my brain is defective but one day there will be a cure for my disability.

I do not like it when he says this.

I do not feel disabled, defective or I need to be cured.

I like being an Aspie.

It would be like trying to change the colour of my eyes.

There is one thing I wish I could change, however.

I wish I could cry properly.

I squeeze and squeeze but nothing...comes out.

I cry when I cut onions but this does not count.

Anyway, do you like the word "cumquat"?

It is a type of fruit.

Do you have a favourite-sounding word?

My top 5 are ointment, bumblebee, Vladivostok, banana and testicle.

I have also invented some new words

"confuzzled", which is being confused and puzzled at the same time, "snirt", which is a cross between snow and dirt, and "smushables"...

..which are squashed groceries you find at the bottom of the bag.

I have sent a letter to the Oxford Dictionary people asking them to include my words but I have not heard back.

It is now time for me to go to my Overeaters Anonymous meeting.

There is a woman there called Marjorie Buttersworth who confuzzles me.

She kisses me without my permission so tonight I have decided to rub onions under my armpits to repel her.

Your friend in America, Max Jerry Horowitz.

PS. Please find enclosed some chocolate-covered ants I found at the deli.

PPS. Not much has happened since I last wrote except for my manslaughter charges, lotto win and lvy's death.

Mary was thrilled Max had finally written and suddenly had a fabulous idea.

A-ha!


Mary and Max's friendship was resuscitated and her tears were the best gift he'd ever received.

Inside Max's head his brain was smiling.

Loaded up with bizarre forms of chocolate, their letters flew thick and fast between the continents.

Max learnt to read Mary's letters with caution and at the slightest tingle of tension, he would stop, take his medication and soothe his nerves.

Each letter he would iron, laminate and file in a special place, which also soothed his nerves.

He enjoyed answering her questions and solving her puzzles like Do sheep shrink when it rains?

Why do old men wear their pants so high?

Do gooses get goosebumps and why is bellybutton lint blue?

Are there Noblets in heaven?

And if a taxi goes backwards, does the driver owe you money?

In turn, Mary simply enjoyed hearing about Max's fascinating life how many people he'd counted littering...

..how the latest Henry had died...

..and new recipes he'd invented for chicken.

Each nourished the other and, as Mary grew taller, Max grew wider their friendship becoming stronger than the glue on Mary's Noblets.

Although Max found solace in Mary, he still found the rest of the world bewildering.

And he couldn't understand why he was seen as the odd one while everyone else was considered normal.

Humans were endlessly illogical.

Why did they throw out food when there were children starving in lndia?

Why did they clear the rainforests when they needed the oxygen?

And why did they create bus timetables when they never ran on time?

He agreed with his favourite physicist that there are only two things infinite the universe and man's stupidity.

And for Mary, even though Max filled her with confidence...

Bullseye!

..her world was far from perfect.

The grip of love had her by the throat.


At 4.59pm, on the 8th of the 8th 1988...

..Noel Norman Dinkle attached his last string and, after 40 years and 40 million tea bags, he retired.

To celebrate, Noel announced he was retiring from taxidermy and taking up metal detecting instead.

But, sadly, it was not a hobby he had for long.


In his will, Noel had left Mary some money so she decided to go to university and study disorders of the mind, yearning to learn more about her friend.

Mary was as popular at university as she was at school.

Damian went there too, aching to be a Thespian.

Hi there, M-M-Mary.

Hi...hello!

That was damn f-f-funny!


Hey, Damian, your mum's roses look fab!

Oh, th-th-th-thanks, Mary.

Um, M-Mary, can I tell you something?

Sure, babe!

Um, um, you've got d-d-d-d-dog's poo on your shoe.

Dear Max, I have been such an idiot.

I've wasted all my money on something pointless when I should have been saving to see you.

I know love upsets you so I won't go on about it.

All I want to say is that love is obviously not for me.

I hope you are well and enjoy the chocolate cigarettes I've enclosed.

Love Mary.

Oh, you should be ashamed!

Come on, baby. Let's go. Oh, Mum...

I told you never to talk to strangers.

Noel's sudden death had filled Vera with remorse and guilt and she coped in the only way she knew.


Dear Max, our wedding day was everything I have ever dreamt, making up for the terrible year I've had.

Although all the guests were Damian's family and friends, I felt very welcome.

Damian is so perfect. He even made my wedding dress.

And for our honeymoon he took me to Mykonos his favourite island in Greece.

I got to ride a donkey and found the perfect gift for Len.

Poor Len, he's still struggling with his agoraphobia.

Aaaaahhhh!

Damian and I are so similar.

He even has his own penfriend, who lives on a sheep farm in New Zealand.

Mary...M-M-M-Mary.

Mary...M-M-M-Mary.

Ohhh.

Mary was bursting with self-esteem and her confidence was almost unbearable.

At university, she shone and took it upon herself to cure the world of mental illness.

She did her thesis on Asperger's syndrome and used Max as her case study.

Her professors were thoroughly impressed and her writing praised far and wide.

Soon, publishers queued to print her unique insight and by her 25th birthday, thousands of copies were ready to be shipped.

Dear Max, I am very proud to give you the very first copy of my book about your disability and the hopes that we have to one day cure it.

Even more exciting is that I am finally coming to meet and celebrate with you in one week's time.

I'm also going to give you half the royalties.

Your loving friend, Mary.

PS. Please find enclosed some chocolate-coated Swiss almonds.

Max didn't take the news very well not very well at all.

Dear Mary Daisy Dinkle, I cannot express myself very clearly at this moment and so I will list my emotions in the order they feel most intense hurt, confuzzledness, betrayal, discomfort, distress and wheeziness.

This last one is not really an emotion but I thought you should know about it anyway.


With her suitcase packed for New York, Mary said goodbye to Damian.

She hadn't been this excited since she'd found a Noblet in the gutter.

But her excitement suddenly dribbled away Iike a chocolate in the sun.


Mary slowly sank into a puddle of depression, self-loathing and cooking sherry.

The only colour left in her life was her beloved Damian, only an arm's length away but as distant as the moon.

She lost interest in the world and it lost interest in her as a horrible apparition began to haunt.

She started to spend her nights making pompoms and eating two-minute noodles.


Each day, with strength and shame, Mary trudged to the letterbox in hope, only to swivel, shrivel and slink back inside.


My dearest Mary, by the time you read this, I will be on a plane to New Zealand to begin a new life.

You probably haven 't even noticed I'd packed my bags.

I have fallen in love with my penfriend, Desmond, and I'm going to live on his sheep farm.

It's been hard to watch you become a remnant of the person I once loved.

Your research into m-m-mental illness has been admirable but your i-idealistic pursuit to remedy it has been misguided.

Mary, you have to realise y-you are not a magic beauty cream you can smooth on the world to rid it of its wrinkles.

I love you, Mary, but I love Desmond more.

I hope one day your heart will heal and we can be friends.

Yours compassionately, Damian.


Aaaarghh!

Dear Mayor Ridiculani, on Monday I counted 27 people illegally dropping cigarette butts.

I would like to recommend the fine be increased to a minimum of $1 million as a stronger deterrent and would be happy...


Thank you.


Sorry.


Dear Mary, please find enclosed my entire Noblet collection as a sign that I forgive you.

When I received your book, the emotions inside...


On the way home, Max sat to count the stars.

He felt complete the world was back in balance.


# When I was just a little girl

# I asked my mother, what will I be?

# Will I be pretty, will I be rich?

# Here's what she said to me...

# Que sera sera

# Whatever will be will be

# The future's not ours to see

# Que sera sera


# Que sera sera

# Whatever will be will be

# The future's not ours to see

# Que sera sera

# What will be will be

# Que sera sera #


Ah!

Len had saved the day and after 45 years he finally conquered his agoraphobia.

Moron!

Dear Mary, please find enclosed my entire Noblet collection as a sign that I forgive you.

When I received your book, the emotions inside my brain felt like they were in a tumble dryer, smashing into each other.

The hurt felt like when I accidentally stapled my lips together.

Ow!

The reason I forgive you is because you are not perfect.

You are imperfect, and so am l.

All humans are imperfect, even the man outside my apartment who litters.

When I was young, I wanted to be anybody but myself.

Dr Bernard Hazelhof said if I was on a desert island then I would have to get used to my own company just me and the coconuts.

He said I would have to accept myself, my warts and all, and that we don't get to choose our warts.

They are a part of us and we have to live with them.

We can, however, choose our friends and I am glad I have chosen you.

Dr Bernard Hazelhof also said that everyone's lives are like a very long sidewalk.

Some are well paved. Others, like mine, have cracks, banana skins and cigarette butts.

Your sidewalk is like mine but probably not as many cracks.

Hopefully, one day our sidewalks will meet and we can share a can of condensed milk.

You are my best friend. You are my only friend.

Your American penpal, Max Jerry Horowitz.

PS. I have recently found the perfect job with a survey company.

All I have to do is eat things and tick boxes.


Max?

Max?

Max?

Hello?

Max, it's us!

We're here!

Oh, Max?

Max had died peacefully that morning after finishing his final can of condensed milk.


You are my best friend. You are my only friend.

He smelt like liquorice and old books, she thought to herself, as tears rolled from her eyes the colour of muddy puddles.